By: Chris “Topher” Aderhold

Ford ( leading mountain biking during Summer Camp 2005.

Ford (fourth from the left) leading mountain biking during Summer Camp 2005.

It was a stop-and-smell-the-roses kind of moment, before I even really contemplated stop-and-smell-the-roses kinds of moments.

At dinner in Helen Hall, during one of my first evenings on staff at Camp Gray, back in 2006, I was sitting in the southwest corner of the Hall. I was facing the front double doors, and across from me sat then-Assistant Director Joe Van Tassel – we were talking about the Camp Gray website (true story) – but our conversation was interrupted because… BOOM! A big guy with an even bigger smile busted through those double doors like a football player smashing through a pre-game banner. His contagious joy filled the room, and record-setting decibel levels were achieved by the boisterous screams of excitement for his arrival. He swiftly moved around the room, wrapping his big arms around all those present, including myself (I remember sticking my hand out for an introductory handshake. He swim-moved my lanky arm so he could wrap his bear-sized paws around me for an introductory “brothers-don’t-shake-hands-brothers-gotta-hug” hug…).

As an admittedly very nervous new staff member, it was a reassuring moment of love and a shining moment of profound joy.

Ford was his name (actually, his name is Steven Torres, but more on that at the bottom of this post…), and for me, he was my introduction to the contagious joy found at Camp Gray.

I had the opportunity to work closely with Ford during my first week as a counselor that summer. His example of camper-centeredness, and his passion for impacting the lives of each and every one of his campers, sticks with me to this day. Prior to working at Camp Gray, Ford was a longtime camper, so he knew first-hand the power of Camp’s mission.

Throughout the balance of my first summer, I continued to learn lots from Ford. It was a blessing to work with him the next couple of summers, as well, before he left Camp to marry his college sweetheart, Cassandra. Though he lives in LaCrosse these days, he’s still involved with Camp. He’s a regular at our benefit dinners and other various events; he’s been known to give inspiring talks to our staff at staff trainings; and he’s an all-around positive ambassador for all that goes on at Camp Gray.

Ford with his daughter Lily.

Ford with his daughter Lily.

A couple of months back, Jeff received a call from Ford.

“I want to run a marathon, and I want to run it for Camp Gray,” he said.

As many of you know, over the course of the past dozen or so years, steady improvements have been made to rebuild and revamp many areas of our aging Camp. With perhaps the two biggest projects left – a new gymnasium and a new dining hall – Ford was inspired this winter to help raise funds for these projects in the form of a fundraising marathon run.

I asked him recently why he was inspired to run for Camp Gray.

“I’m inspired to run for Camp because over the years, Camp has given me so much and helped to form me into the man that I am today. This is a small way for me to give back to Camp Gray.”

Here’s the really cool thing about this story: The big guy with the even bigger smile is now merely a shell of himself. A couple years back, after the birth of Lily, his first child, he was inspired to begin eating right and exercising regularly. He’s lost well over 70 pounds. Wouldn’t you know it though, while he’s no longer a big guy, his smile might be even bigger. His healthy lifestyle has improved every aspect of his life!

With several months of training under his belt, he’s nearing Marathon Day with excitement. In a little over two weeks, Ford will be running in the annual Green Bay Marathon – 26.2 miles for Camp Gray.

Ford has set for himself a goal of raising $5,000 for Camp Gray’s Building Improvement Fund, and he’s set a goal to finish the run in less than 5 hours.

Please consider supporting Ford as he runs to support Camp Gray. Click here to read more about his efforts, and to contribute to his fundraiser.

The story of Ford’s joy filling Helen Hall back in 2006 – It was a stop-and-smell-the-roses kind of moment, before I even really contemplated stop-and-smell-the-roses kinds of moments. When did I begin contemplating stop-and-smell-the-roses kinds of moments? After I met Ford. He reminded us often to take time to smell the roses – to appreciate the little blessings in our lives.

Thanks for your support of Ford’s efforts to raise funds for Camp’s Building Improvement Fund!

What is the origin of the name, Ford?
Back in the day, as an Explorer Camper, Steven Torres found himself in a cabin group with another Steven. Steven’s clever counselor, Shawn Crumb, couldn’t pass up the opportunity to nickname Steven – the guy with the last name, Torres – Ford. Ford Torres. Though his family, college friends, and colleagues all know him as Steven, he’ll always be known around these parts as Ford.